This is the post that two days ago I mentioned I might write. You see, today one of my cats died. It wasn't totally unexpected; she was about fifteen years old and her health went into a sudden decline early last month. Though she'd visibly been very strong and healthy before that, she was transformed into a bedraggled shadow of her former self. She was barely eating, didn't drink a whole lot, and was suddenly moving very slowly. She stopped grooming herself and her long hair grew matted. And even though we tried to help her to get better—the vet gave her an antibiotic which seemed to help for awhile, and her health did improve for a bit—she kept on getting worse and worse. We initially scheduled her for that dreaded final vet's appointment last week, but she perked up at the last minute (she even ate a little without us having to liquefy it and feed it to her with a dropper); we knew it was final days by that point, but since she'd started showing interest in the rest of the world again, it didn't quite seem right to take her out of it yet.
Such was not the case today. She could hardly walk; she more dragged herself around than anything, and since we couldn't even feed her with the dropper anymore because she fought us and started bleeding from the mouth when we tried, she hadn't actually eaten in two days. (The appointment was supposed to be yesterday, but the vet had to postpone it—and we had another unexpected day with our poor kitty.) Between the knowledge that she was going to die soon and the stress of having not one, but two, euthanization dates scheduled and then postponed, I've been in a state of constant grief for about two weeks, even though the one I was grieving for still lived and breathed until this afternoon. It's been exhausting. I've cried more in the past two weeks than I think I have since my maternal grandfather died.
And now that she's gone, I feel at once empty and full of sorrow. She was a big part of my life for many years; she was a stray, dumped somewhere near my home about thirteen years ago, and although she was fed by several other people in my neighbourhood before she came to us, the moment we met there was an instant bond. She was my cat; I was her person. That was it. She wandered off for a month or two in the summer for several years, but she always came back—and when she was here, she always followed me like my own shadow. Finally, about seven years ago, she returned to us later than usual and we decided to keep her in the house full-time from that day forward. She never set foot outdoors again—and was, I must say, very happy to keep it that way.
She died at roughly 2:30 this afternoon, and only a few hours later, it still seems a bit unreal, even though I did bury her on a hill in my admittedly large backyard, very close to the spot where we first met (and near where two of our other cats, both kittens of hers, are buried). I'm in my bedroom; she rarely followed me in here. (I love my cats, but I do find it a bit difficult to get a good night's sleep when I'm constantly being walked on.) It would be so tempting to pretend that as soon as I left the room, I'd see her curled up on the little velvet-covered stool that we put right beside a window that gets lots of sunshine. But thinking like that isn't healthy, and it prolongs mourning in the long run—I know this from experience. It just seems strange to know that yes, she really is dead. And even though my pain caused by her illness and death is still strong and in some ways only beginning, at least her suffering is over.
Now, as a Pagan and as a Christian, I do believe in an afterlife. I even have some hope of seeing those who I loved during their lives again—provided that they haven't reincarnated yet, of course. (One of my other cats—one who died last year—still seems to be with us, by the way; often I'll feel a cat jump onto my bed, but not actually see one. My mother says the same thing happens to her at times.) But the separation now is so painful. I have been preparing myself for this practically since she first got sick; in fact, for the last two years I've been telling myself that every day we had with her was a bonus and a blessing because her life had already extended past a cat's usual life expectancy. Still, the finality of it—or "finality for now", if you like—is just so heartbreaking. She was, though not a human, one of the best friends I've ever had.
Although I've been my typical verbose self in this post, I'm not sure how much I'll feel like writing in the next few weeks. Experience tells me that inspiration may not come easily while I'm still in this stage of grief. So if posting is even more slow than usual for the next while, this is why.